Tips for Taking Your Dog Hiking

When my dog Huckleberry sees my hiking boots, his tail starts to wag furiously.

He leaps into the car, ears perked. The closer we get to the mountains, the bigger his grin. Huckleberry loves hiking, and he’s not alone. Most dogs, regardless of breed or size, make wonderful companions on the trail—but planning the perfect day of hiking with your pup takes preparation. Before you take your four-legged friend on an outdoor adventure, check out these simple tips.

Do Your Research

While you might be able to play it by ear when you’re hiking alone or with friends, bringing Fido on the trails is a different story. Consult local guidebooks or online resources (like this one) to find a hike in your area that’s an appropriate length, difficulty, and level of commitment. Check the weather forecast, too—if it’s hot, bring extra water; if it’ll be cold, consider bringing a jacket and/or booties for your pup. If appropriate, call a ranger or local authority to inquire about hunting regulations, wildlife concerns, and trail conditions.

Start Small

No matter how experienced you are, remember that your dog might be overwhelmed with new sights, smells, and challenges. Pick small, manageable trails as your first objectives—then build on your success with gradually longer outings. If your dog is up to it, you’ll be backpacking together in no time!

Be Considerate of Others

It’s easy to get carried away in the great outdoors, but remember that there may be other groups in the area—and your actions affect their experience as much as theirs affect you. Keep your dog on a leash unless he has reliable recall and is well-socialized with other dogs. Be aware of your noise level, and check in with other groups if you have questions or concerns.

Bring Food and Water

Always, always, always bring water—either invest in a dog-friendly water bottle, or simply carry a bowl and extra bottle of your own. A pocket full of treats can encourage good behavior and reward fun adventures, and if you’re planning an outing longer than an hour or two, consider bringing a some food to keep energy levels high.

Keep It Fun

Remember: at the end of the day, your dog isn’t there for the sweeping panoramic vistas—he loves hiking because he gets to spend the day with you! Make sure that you do all the preparation you need to have a fun, safe, happy day in the hills, and keep it fun with lots of praise, petting, and encouragement. And don’t forget to snap a summit selfie!

Meet the Author: Charlotte Austin

Charlotte Austin is a Seattle-based writer and mountain guide. She has climbed, explored, and led expeditions in North and South America, Nepal, Europe, Alaska, and Patagonia. Her writing has been featured in Women's Adventure, Alpinist, Stay Wild, and other national and international publications. When she's not guiding in the Himalayas, she's exploring her hometown (Seattle, Washington), trying new recipes, and hanging out with Huckleberry, her giant black Great Dane-Lab mix. Read more about their adventures at

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